Catania, A. Charles Department of Psychology, University of Maryland, Baltimore, Maryland.
Last reviewed:August 2019
Show previous versions
- Reinforcers and punishers
- Discriminative or occasion-setting stimuli
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
Learning based upon the consequences of behavior. Instrumental conditioning, also referred to as operant conditioning, is a method of learning wherein behavior is altered by the effects (either positive or negative) of the resulting consequences. For example, a rat may learn to press a lever when this action produces food (see illustration). Thus, instrumental or operant behavior is the behavior by which an organism changes its environment. The particular instances of behavior that produce consequences are called responses. Classes of responses having characteristic consequences are called operant classes; responses in an operant class operate on (act upon) the environment. For example, a rat's lever-press responses may include pressing with the left or with the right paw, sitting on the lever, and so on, but all these taken together constitute the operant class called lever pressing. Another type of conditioning, called classical conditioning, occurs when a stimulus automatically triggers an involuntary response. See also: Cognition; Conditioned reflex; Information processing (psychology); Learning; Psychology
The content above is only an excerpt.
for your institution. Subscribe
To learn more about subscribing to AccessScience, or to request a no-risk trial of this award-winning scientific reference for your institution, fill in your information and a member of our Sales Team will contact you as soon as possible.
to your librarian. Recommend
Let your librarian know about the award-winning gateway to the most trustworthy and accurate scientific information.
AccessScience provides the most accurate and trustworthy scientific information available.
Recognized as an award-winning gateway to scientific knowledge, AccessScience is an amazing online resource that contains high-quality reference material written specifically for students. Contributors include more than 10,000 highly qualified scientists and 46 Nobel Prize winners.
MORE THAN 8700 articles covering all major scientific disciplines and encompassing the McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science & Technology and McGraw-Hill Yearbook of Science & Technology
115,000-PLUS definitions from the McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific and Technical Terms
3000 biographies of notable scientific figures
MORE THAN 19,000 downloadable images and animations illustrating key topics
ENGAGING VIDEOS highlighting the life and work of award-winning scientists
SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER STUDY and additional readings to guide students to deeper understanding and research
LINKS TO CITABLE LITERATURE help students expand their knowledge using primary sources of information